There are moments in each of our sorry lives in which we experience a moment of human connection that transcends consciousness. I’m talking about the wordless exchange of understanding between two people on Middle Path where they mutually decide to pretend like they don’t recognize one another from the sloppy Old K basement makeout this past Friday. I’m talking about that “wow we’re all apart of something greater” feeling that happens when you emerge from the bathroom stall at the same exact moment as the person pooping next to you and you both lock eyes in the mirror. This stank: it’s yours, it’s mine, it’s ours. And I’m talking about the moment when I ended up on the floor of Peirce atrium and locked eyes with what I think are the eyes of the Kenyon Seal and wondered–no–realized that after years and years of lying there on the floor this seal, this beautiful, beautiful seal has probably never experienced the tender warmth of human touch. And I identified.
Every day, nearly two thousand people see and then unsee the Kenyon Seal on the floor of Peirce Hall. They skirt around its golden edges, leap across its great shining face in graceful acts of avoidance. They stomp across your body in acts of defiance, crossover you in apathy. This weekend I watched an alum stomp dance upon your surface like the devil on a grave. “Take that you seal! Take that! What now? I have graduated. I can touch you because now I am untouchable.”
The closest the Kenyon seal ever comes to that sweet warmth of human touch is when, twice a month, a custodian comes to clear with gloved hands and windex the dirt collected in its edges and grooves, comes to wipe away the tears cried on it, the tears produced by it. And in those ten minutes it takes to clean her goldcrest, do you think the Kenyon Seal imagines, for a moment, that it’s not gloves but human hands that carress her? Do you think the Kenyon Seal pretends that this means that she is loved? Because I do. I sure as hell do.
And once in the middle of the night when no skunk nor student stirred, I crept passed those heavy front doors and laid my body down beside the Kenyon Seal, limbs arched about her like the ring of light around the moon.
It’s okay, Kenyon Seal, my parents didn’t hold me as a child either.
It’s okay, Kenyon Seal, I too build up these “don’t touch me you won’t graduate” walls around me just to see who cares enough to knock them down.
Kenyon Seal, I too crave the warmth of human touch.
But I speak none of these words aloud.
And in the dark, I place my hand against the cool surface of her golden face. I press my lips to her dirt-encrusted ridges. I whisper two words: “I understand.”